Goodbye Static Tales

“Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known and have told us again and again: books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.” Novelist Umberto Eco was echoing (all pun intended) Charles Dickens who previously spoke of life as a “furious plagiarism”.

This addresses the fun conundrum of brand storytelling. If every story has already been told then how can a plagiarism differentiate a brand?

Of course, the answer is that stories differentiate in their execution. Protagonist and antagonist. Character archetypes and fables. Three acts. These notions are important but are not at the core. The answer for brands lies in relevant and fresh approaches. Ones that are not one-way narratives but a dialogue and experience that influence changes in thought and behavior.

In the old days ad gurus would say, “Do not sell the mattress, sell the sleep.” Coke does not sell beverages, it sells happiness. AirBnb promises you will live like a local rather than making a hotel room the destination.

Michael Shermer believes, “Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” Storytelling in marketing is constantly debated. Yet, the fact remains a banner ad, a poster, a 30-second television ad all tell stories. If they don’t the consumer makes up their own. If they do it well, a consumer inserts themselves into the narrative.

I am confident that storytelling will never change dramatically. After all, it hasn’t in a couple of thousand years. But there is something happening in brand storytelling that will add to the evolution. Static tales may become a thing of the past.

The primary driver is technology and that too is no surprise. The very definition of interactivity will expand. Stories are not only going to get more dynamic, they will be real-time with different narratives and outcomes. Brands need to recognize these changes. Data and technology will enable this but it will still require amazing storytelling skills coupled with ‘fast-on-your-feet’ capabilities.

Every story has already been told or William Ralph Inge observed, “Originality is undetected plagiarism.” Yet, this coming dynamism will seem fresh. Enjoy the stories. You are going to be a character in many a brand tale.

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